EVERETT – Mark Lowe is confident his fastball will see 97 and 98 mph again.
Until then, he’s elated just to be on a mound again throwing in the low 90s, working his way back to a place in the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen and, most importantly, getting hitters out.
Lowe did that with all three he faced Monday night at Everett Memorial Stadium, where he pitched a 1-2-3 first inning for the Everett AquaSox against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.
It was Lowe’s third minor league rehab appearance as he comes back from October surgery to repair a defect in his right elbow so severe that doctors warned he might never pitch again.
He threw 12 pitches Monday, half of them fastballs that ranged from 89 to 91 mph, and got two fly outs and a ground out. In his previous rehab outings with the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers, Lowe gave up three hits and two walks with two strikeouts in 11/3 scoreless innings.
“I felt really good,” he said. “I had good command of all my pitches, worked both sides of the plate and tried to mix in as many pitches effectively as possible.
Is he ready to rejoin the Mariners? That won’t be decided until at least one more rehab inning, scheduled for Thursday with the Rainiers, but Lowe is eager to rejoin a Mariners team that is one of the hottest in baseball.
“By the way I feel, yeah, I’m ready,” he said. “I don’t have my arm strength built back up, but I’ve got great command with everything and I’m mixing up my pitches well. I can set hitters up using my fastball and throw strikes with all my pitches.”
And, while he’s not dazzling anyone with the velocity he showed last year at Safeco Field when he came up from the minors and blew away hitters, Lowe is satisfied those speeds will come.
“Last year I didn’t start throwing 97, 98 until the end of July,” he said. “That’s four months into the season. It’s early July now, so maybe it’ll be there at the end of September. You never know. It might take time for everything to loosen up or it might come back right away.”
At this point, Lowe is more enthused with his command of the fastball, changeup and slider.
“When you throw mid to high 90s, you can get away with so many mistakes,” he said. “During the offseason I was watching video of all my games last year and there were so many pitches that I left over the middle of the plate. They either fouled them back or fouled them off to the right. There’s no way I can get away with that throwing 90-91.
“If you’re going to pitch in to a hitter, miss inside if you’re going to miss and if you’re going away, miss out. You don’t want to miss over the plate.”
Lowe said nobody with the Mariners has given him a target date for returning to the team. His only instructions were to be patient and get healthy.
Still, Lowe is eager to rejoin a team that has planted itself firmly in the race for the American League West Division lead.
“I was in Portland last week (with the Rainiers) and wasn’t paying too much attention to what they were doing,” he said. “Then I looked in the paper today and saw that we’re just 2 games back. It wasn’t that long ago that we were seven back. We’re playing good baseball and I’m looking forward to being a part of that.”